Heart, Lung and Circulation
Original Article| Volume 29, ISSUE 9, P1397-1404, September 2020

Evaluation of Cardiac Rehabilitation Performance and Initial Benchmarks for Australia: An Observational Cross-State and Territory Snapshot Study

Published:February 12, 2020DOI:


      Australia, unlike most high-income countries, does not have published benchmarks for cardiac rehabilitation (CR) delivery. This study provides cross-state data on CR delivery for initial benchmarks and assesses performance against international minimal standards.


      A prospective observational study March–May 2017 of CR programs in NSW (n=36), Tasmania (n=2) and ACT (n=1) was undertaken. Data were collected on 11 indicators (published dictionary), then classified as higher or lower performing using the UK National Audit of Cardiac Rehabilitation (NACR) criteria. Equity of access to higher performing CR was assessed using logistic regression.


      Participants (n=2,436) had a mean age of 66.06±12.54 years, 68.9% were male, 16.2% culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) and 2.6% Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. At patient level, waiting time was median 15 (Interquartile range [IQR] 9–25) days, 24.3% had an assessment before starting, 41.8% on completion, a median 12 sessions (IQR 6–16) were delivered, which 59.1% completed and 75.4% were linked to ongoing care.
      At program level, using NACR criteria, 18.0% were classified as higher performing and ≥87.1% met waiting time criteria, however, only 20.5% met duration criteria. Evidence of inequitable access to higher performing programs was present with substantially higher odds for participants living in major cities (OR 28.11 95%CI 18.41, 44.92) and with every decade younger age (OR 1.89–2.94) and lower odds by 89.0% for principal referral hospital-based services (OR 0.11 95%CI 0.08, 0.14) and 31.0% for people having a CALD background (OR 0.69 95%CI 0.49, 0.97).


      This study provides initial national CR performance benchmarks for quality improvement in Australia. While wait times are minimised, few programs are higher performing or met minimum duration standards. There is an urgent need to resource and support CR quality and access outside of major cities, in principal referral hospitals and for older and diverse patients.


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